At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Last night: dinner at Calvinist lawyer's place (homemade pizza and Shiner Bock), then drive down to Lubbock for a civic theater production of A Christmas Carol (lots of fake British accents except for one unconcealed west Texas drawl which drew some laughs from the audience (due to its incongruity with the setting in Victorian London I assume)) then to a low-rent coffee shop so one of the lawyer's sons could play a few matches with the local chess club (an odd place for a chess meeting, considering the number of punks and hipsters hanging around there). The main reason for attending the play was to see one of our parishioners play Belle. I hear that next month she's flying to New York to audition for admission into Julliard, and judging from last night I'd say she has the looks and charm to make it as at least a secondary actress in the movies.

Today I'm driving to Fort Worth to visit Pablo, then Sunday flying from DFW to northern Alabama to visit family, then flying back to DFW on the 29th for a few days catching up with Felix, who'll be in the area, then driving back to the plains on Sun Jan 2. Blogging will be light.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Book Reviews

Ault, James M. Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church. Knopf, $27.95.

Publishers Weekly: “Ault masterfully combines narrative with careful, and frequently groundbreaking, analysis. What is most striking is the way Ault brings his whole person, not just his capacity for insightful abstraction, into the story. Required reading for anyone who would understand America’s most conservative Christians.” Kirkus: “Informative and well-informed.” Books and Culture: “Ault is at his best when pointing out the ironies of positions on both sides of the liberal-conservative divide. Ault’s weakest point, on the other hand, is his explanation of why political conservatism and religious fundamentalism go hand in hand. This explanatory muddiness might account for the occasionally excessive repetition in the analytical parts of the book.” Christianity Today: “Ault carefully portrays the fundamentalists he befriends with both honesty and sympathy—as people, rather than as caricatures. Lucid prose. This brilliant book is essential for anyone who wants to better understand fundamentalism—or for fundamentalists who desire to understand how they are viewed by others.” New York Times: “A mix of ethnography and spiritual autobiography that deserves a hearing from fundamentalism’s cultured despisers. The twists at the end of the book are reminiscent of a good novel.” Library Journal: “Beautifully written and thoroughly researched study. Somewhat dated bibliography.” Booklist: “Provides as unbiased a glimpse into the hearts and minds of fundamentalists as might be found.”

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Short but interesting interview with Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Book Reviews

This one has been out for a while...I'm not sure whether it's more useful for me to wait until I collect a lot of blurbs before posting or to post quickly with only a few reviews.

Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. Penguin, $35.

Economist: “Magnificent.” Library Journal: “A first-rate life and excellent addition to the ongoing debate about Hamilton’s importance in the shaping of America. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.”
Atlantic Monthly: “Chernow is obviously not at home in the eighteenth century; his grasp of its religion, attitudes, and intellectual history is unsure, and he lacks command of the ideological, political, sectional, and social differences that divided the early republic….And too often, perhaps intimidated by this alien world, Chernow lapses into the sin that commonly afflicts writers of doorstop histories and biographies: he chronicles events, rather than interprets them.” Publishers Weekly: “Chernow’s achievement is to give us a biography commensurate with Hamilton’s character…makes fresh contributions to Hamiltoniana…a fine work that captures Hamilton’s life with judiciousness and verve.” Kirkus: “A splendid life of an enlightened reactionary and forgotten Founding Father…Literature and full of engaging historical asides. By far the best of the many lives of Hamilton now in print, and a model of the biographer’s art.” Booklist: “comprehensive and superbly written.” American Spectator: “Exceptionally thorough and absorbing…Though John C. Miller’s magisterial 1959 biography is a better choice for understanding Hamilton’s importance to the new nation, it will be hard to improve on this book as an intimate portrait of the man.” Foreign Affairs: “An original, illuminating, and highly readable study that admirably introduces readers to Hamilton’s personality and accomplishments.” Choice: “Encyclopedic. Recommended.” First Things: “Will undoubtedly take its deserved place as a standard reference on the founding era of the American experiment.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Swedish librarian terrorists, perhaps?


Forbes: Smoking increases alcoholism-related brain damage.

Book Reviews

Sarna, Jonathan D. American Judaism: A History. Yale, $35.

Publishers Weekly: “outstanding survey…sprightly prose.” Library Journal: “breaks new ground…This book, which succeeds as both scholarship and as a popular title, is highly recommended for most libraries.” First Things: “Important. Sarna is a master of American religious history. Every page of Sarna’s elegantly written narrative yields insights into the development of American Judaism.” History: Review of New Books: “This ambitious undertaking has been accomplished in a manner that will reward and hold the interest of lay and religious scholars as well as general readers. Sarna’s probing is thoughtful, sensitive, informative, and optimistic.” Choice: “Highly recommended.” Commentary: “In some ways, a masterpiece. It will be indispensable to anyone who cares about the topic. But there are gaps in coverage." Christian Century: “Sarna’s gem of a book is almost as illuminating about the Christian background against which Jews made their way in America as it is about that Jewish story itself.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


NYT: With Great Beer, It's All in the Rocks (how geology affects brewing).

Monday, December 13, 2004

Alcohol increases tumor growth.

Dave Eggers interview with Eric Idle in the New Yorker.